Nuclear Energy Facilities Resilient Through Hurricane Sandy

The NRC is starting to return to normal inspection coverage for nuclear power plant sites in the Northeastern United States following super storm Sandy. Photo courtesy NRC.

Hurricane Sandy presented one of the greatest public health and preparedness challenges from a weather event in recent history, leaving dozens dead and millions without power across a wide swath of the Northeast. However, nuclear experts say the lack of major problems with nuclear reactors during the storm showed that they were ready, as reported by Bloomberg.

The “superstorm” forced three East coast reactors to shut down, and a fourth, Exelon Corp.’s Oyster Creek facility in New Jersey, to declare an alert (which has since been lifted). The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspected the plants in the wake of the storm, and according to a statement, “all safety systems responded as designed.”

The NRC also monitored any possible impacts on nuclear materials sites it oversees but did not identify any concerns.

“Hurricane Sandy once again demonstrates the robust construction of nuclear energy facilities, which are built to withstand extreme flooding and hurricane-force winds that are beyond that historically reported for each area,” said Marvin S. Fertel, president and chief executive officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute in a release.

Of the 34 nuclear facilities from South Carolina to Vermont in Hurricane Sandy’s path, 24 continued to operate safely and generate electricity throughout the event. Seven were already shut down for refueling or inspection, and three in New Jersey or New York safely shut down, as designed, because of storm conditions or grid disturbances, according to a release from the Nuclear Energy Institute.

At the same time, lawmakers are calling for U.S. regulators to fully implement the nuclear-safety upgrades and rules recommended by the task force convened after Japan’s Fukushima accident, according to Bloomberg.